City Council on Thursday approved annexation of a Babcock Road commercial corridor and three enclave areas off Vance Jackson Road near North Loop 1604, Foster Road, and around Interstate 10 East and Loop 1604.

Following City staff recommendations, Council voted not to annex three other commercial corridors: on Culebra Road near Alamo Ranch, Wiseman Boulevard, and Potranco Road at West Loop 1604. The approved annexations will take effect Nov. 27.

The City is required by a new state annexation law to call a 2018 election that would allow residents in the Potranco area to vote on whether to be annexed. Local officials are eyeing the area, hoping to protect nearby Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland from encroaching development.

Two weeks ago Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 6, which requires cities in large counties to get voters in a targeted annexation area to sign off on expansion.

Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni said City staff, following the Council’s direction and concerns about Lackland, prioritized the Potranco area in terms of considering an election.

“With the Council’s direction, we potentially could look at other areas,” he said.

Earlier this summer, the City looked at nine total areas for annexation, but gradually pared down the list. The City’s Planning Commission recommended the annexation of five corridors and enclaves and rejected a sixth area.

Annexation of the Wiseman and Potranco areas would be a revenue loss to the City in the long run, according to Zanoni. City staff estimated that after 20 years, the Potranco area would yield a $49 million net negative, and the Wiseman area a $27.5 million net negative.

City leaders have sought to protect local military installations on the edges of city limits, including Lackland near Potranco, and Camp Bullis near 1604 on the Northside. The new state law includes a five-mile buffer around military bases, which would permit San Antonio to place some land-use controls around Lackland.

“The Legislature provided this relief for protection and we’re trying to utilize it,” Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras said.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said San Antonio’s state lawmakers fought hard to ensure the annexation laws coming out of the Legislature’s special summer session included some sort of protection for military installations.

“We have now the ability to protect our bases and communities who choose not to be annexed,” he said.

But some Council members are still worried. Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) was the only member to vote in favor of annexing the Potranco area, saying she feared there will be a run on master development plans in the unincorporated area near Lackland.

Not annexing areas near military installations could give the wrong impression to military leaders and local legislators, said Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), indicating that San Antonio is not serious about protecting its military mission.

“We made promises to the military to fight tooth and nail to make sure their priorities are not lost,” he said.

Councilmen Rey Saldaña (D4) and Greg Brockhouse (D6) said the City should work with developers in the Potranco area to see if measures could be taken to ensure lighting and sound from new developments do not affect operations at Lackland.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) cast the lone dissenting vote on three approved annexations: Babcock, Foster, and I-10 East. Gonzales reiterated her concerns about the City’s ability to maintain its current level of street maintenance while planning to extend services to newly annexed areas.

The City is basing annexation service plans on estimations for road maintenance, she said, and not money actually spent on such maintenance and repairs.

“We’re using that information to determine whether we should annex,” she said, adding that the City should adjust its philosophy toward annexation.

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.